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2.29. It is He Who (prepared the earth for your life before He gave you life, and) created all that is in the world for you (in order to create you – the human species – and make the earth suitable for your life); then He directed (His Knowledge, Will, Power, and Favor) to the heavenand formed it into seven heavens. He has full knowledge of everything. Print E-mail

هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِي الأَرْضِ جَمِيعاً ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى إِلَى السَّمَاء فَسَوَّاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

29. It is He Who (prepared the earth for your life before He gave you life, and) created all that is in the world for you (in order to create you – the human species – and make the earth suitable for your life); then He directed (His Knowledge, Will, Power, and Favor) to the heaven28and formed it into seven heavens.29 He has full knowledge of everything.

28. While this verse and the verses 41: 9–12 apparently imply that the earth was created prior to the heavens, verses 79: 27–30 suggest the opposite, and verse 21: 30 seems to be saying that they were created together at the same time. However, when considered together, they mean:

In the primeval stages of creation, the heavens or the solar system and the earth were like a piece of dough that the Hand of Power kneaded of ether, which resembles water in spreading and permeation and in its being the medium for God's creation in the beginning as water is the medium for life on the earth. This fact is what the verse His Supreme Throne was upon the water (11: 7) refers to. Out of this matter – ether – God made atoms and molecules, and intensified and solidified some part of it, making this part into the earth. In its being solidified and crusted with a cover, the creation of the earth was prior to the heavens. However, before the earth was solidified and crusted with a cover, there was a single heaven in the form of clouds of gaseous elements. The fashioning of these clouds of gaseous elements, the primal form of the heavens, into “seven heavens” and adorning them with the sun, moon and stars followed the formation of the earth, while the preparation of the earth for human life was after the fashioning of the heavens.

What the Qur'ān means by seven heavens has been interpreted in different ways, the most significant of which are as follows:

  • This extremely broad space is filled with ether, the existence of which physics once admitted, without, however, establishing it. This ether serves as the medium to transmit heat, light and the like, and establish the relationship among the laws God established for the movement of the heavenly bodies. Like water changing into vapor and ice without losing its essential nature, this ether has also similar kinds of formation. What the Qur'ān means by “seven heavens” may be these different kinds of formations of ether.
  • It is a known fact that there are many galaxies, of which the Milky Way is but one, their exact number being (as yet) unknown.
  • Just as ash, coal and diamond are substances produced from the same mineral during the process of its working, fire generates flames and smoke, so too, different levels or layers could have been formed of the same matter during its being fashioned. Since in Arabic usage (as in other languages) such numbers as seven, seventy, and seven hundred signify different degrees of multiplicity, there may be more than seven heavens.
  • The Qur'ān calls the heaven where the sun, moon and stars are the lowest heaven or the heaven of the world (67: 5). The other six heavens may be the heavens of the worlds of the Hereafter. (God knows best.)

29. In respect of how the Qur'ān deals with issues that are the subject matter of sciences, the following points should be noted:

  • The Qur'ān is not a book of sciences like physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy.
  • The Qur'ān aims to establish in minds and hearts the pillars of faith and the truths of worshipping and justice.
  • The Qur'ān mentions scientific facts only parenthetically and uses them as evidences of the truths it conveys. For this reason, it prefers a style accessible and adapted to every level of understanding from its revelation until the Last Day.
  • Since the Qur'ān uses such matters as evidence, and evidence cannot be more abstruse than the thesis propounded, it gives consideration to the people's understanding and sense-perceptions.
  • The Qur'ān was revealed fourteen centuries ago, when little was known about the issues sciences study. Seeing that humanity has made continuous progress in scientific studies and discoveries since then, the Qur'ān would obviously have to use a language impossible to contradict in any age.
  • In point of fact, all the Qur'ānic expressions that allude to realities as studied in the sciences are absolutely true. However, what the Qur'ān means by them is, in most cases, open to interpretation. In this way, the Qur'ān, opens the door to scientific study and encourages it.

Science is an assemblage of hypotheses, tested and disproved, partially or wholly, then replaced by other hypotheses, calling for further testing, and so on. It can be said that the sciences are still far away from knowing “the human” thoroughly and may always remain so. They will never be able to solve the mystery of creation and the origin of life, two mighty issues beyond the scope of scientific experiment and verification. For this reason, on the basis of present knowledge, no one can or should object to the Qur'ānic expressions that allude to realities as studied in the sciences. If there is any appearance of contradiction, one should wait for what future studies will reveal and confirm about the meaning of the Qur'ānic expressions. There are three principles concerning Qur'ānic expressions which are considered to be allegorical or ambiguous:

  • The expression is God's word.
  • What God means by it is absolutely true.
  • What God means by it may be “such and such.”

Confirming the first two principles is a requirement of faith, the denial of which amounts to unbelief. The third indicates that what God means by a particular expression is open to study and interpretation and, within certain conditions, different opinions may be put forward. The conditions are: (i) having excellent knowledge of Qur'ānic Arabic and its rules and modes of eloquence, and always considering them; (ii) having excellent knowledge of the essential principles of Islam and the main, clear pronouncements of the Qur'ān; (iii) having sufficient expertise in the subject-matter in question; and (iv) having no intention whatever other than to find out the truth and do so purely to obtain God's approval. If these conditions are met, any opinion may be respected and appreciated as true, at least in part, or as contributing to the effort to arrive at the truth.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 December 2008 )
 
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